Tag Archives: Blogging Help

Why I Use Digg (And not Feedly or Bloglovin)

When Google Reader shut down last year, I think we were all a bit worried about how we would read our blog content now. If you’re a book blogger, it’s likely that you follow way too many blogs to simply hop around the internet every day. Having them all organized in one place is key to sorting through, saving posts for later, and checking out the ones you want to comment on. At least it is for me – without my reader I would forget which posts I liked, which ones I need to come back too, etc. etc.

Another thing happened with Google Reader shut down – the blogosphere piled up with posts about choosing your next reader. I think most people have discovered their new reader of choice by now, so you’re probably wondering why I’m jumping in so late to the game.

Well, when I read all of these posts, I noticed that far and wide, the two major contenders for people were Bloglovin’ and Feedly.

I ended up trying out both. First I started with Bloglovin’. What I liked was the clean interface, and how it was pretty easy to use. I could just import all the blogs I followed right in and be on my way. However, I wasn’t thrilled with the way you had to click on each post to expand it, and there’s no way to collapse the posts to see everything in that category/blog.

So, onto Feedly. I actually stuck with Feedly for a while because I really like the look of it. You can customize so much – the colours, the set up, how your posts are displayed. Also, I had the mobile version on my iPod which worked out really well when I just wanted to quickly scroll through a whole ton of posts. But then I started having some issues. Feedly wouldn’t let me change the categories I had previously set up on Google Reader – they were permanently stuck, and they just weren’t working for me anymore. It was unorganized and pretty inefficient. I looked through all the help pages but nothing addressed the issue, and eventually I just got fed up. I felt a bit like the Panda Cheese Panda.

For a while, I’ll admit I didn’t really use a Reader. I kind of just gave up and randomly visited blogs whenever I remembered to. I realized that this was even worse than my frustrating Feedly experience, and I needed to find a solution. Enter Digg.

Digg isn’t just a Reader (although that’s the only thing I use it for). It’s basically a place to just find out all the cool things happening across cyberspace. But for me it ended up being perfect. I chose not to import all the blogs I followed previously because a lot of them didn’t even exist anymore and the whole thing was just getting way too crowded for me to actually read anything properly. But, if you’re looking to transfer to a new reader and keep all the blogs you follow, you can easily import them.

So what do I like about Digg? I like that it’s simple, easy to use, and you can customize how the posts are shown to you. I think what I like most is that since literally clearing out my whole reader, I now only have blogs that actually exist, and that I actually read. It’s way more manageable and it doesn’t feel like a task every time I open it up. I know I could’ve done this with any other reader, but Digg is just perfect for me. Also, it really closely resembles the older Google Reader style, just more modern.

I know most people are comfortable with the reader they’re using now, and I’m a bit late to this whole game, but I really wanted to talk about Digg because I never really saw anyone mentioning it when the reader debate was going on. Bloglovin’ and Feedly are probably great for some people, but if you’re still searching for an alternative and looking for familiarity and ease of use, I would definitely recommend Digg.

Blogger vs. WordPress: My Thoughts

This year over March break, I made the switch from Blogger to WordPress. I wrote a detailed post about the logistics of the move and how I did everything. Blogger was good to me all the time I had my blog there (it never crashed or got suddenly removed, thank gosh), but I’m in my third year of blogging and I just felt the need to move beyond Blogger to something more serious. I’m glad I waited a couple years before paying for a host and my own domain, to make sure I was actually going to stick to blogging.
So now that I’ve been using WordPress for a few months, I’m going to do a bit of a comparison between Blogger and WordPress, based on my experience so far. Hopefully this will be helpful if you’re thinking of making the switch.

Major Differences

1. Plugins: One of the biggest draws of WordPress for people is usually plugins. It’s true – there is a plugin for absolutely everything. I definitely don’t use plugins as much as I could or should, but here are some of the plugins I do use:

  • Akismet – spam blocker, works wonderfully (it’s caught every spam comment so far)
  • All in One Favicon – see that cute little bird image next to my blog name in the tab/browser? That’s because of this plugin
  • Disqus – comments
  • Easy Content Templates – lets me format templates in advance, and then when I’m writing a post I can use which template I want to use, and which part of the template I want to use (whole thing, just the title, just the body, etc.). I use this plugin every time I write a post. I have templates for reviews, Top Ten Tuesday, and All the Books
  • SEO – You’ve probably heard a lot about SEO. Basically it lets me write a short description for each post that will appear when my link is found on Google, as well as adding key words that Google picks up.
  • And way, way more. I also used a bunch of plugins when I made the switch, like a redirection plugin and another one that converted all my Blogger links to WordPress links. VERY handy.

It took me a while to figure out how to install plugins, but in the end all I had to do was install a Firefox add-on and now I can go to my “control panel” simply by clicking a button in Firefox.

2. Dashboard

The dashboard in WordPress is obviously very different than Blogger. At first glance it seems a lot more complicated. There are a lot more options and links, you just have to get used to it. I definitely don’t make the best use of everything. Even after all these months I’m still not completely familiar with all the options the WordPress dashboard offers.

3. Ease of Use

WordPress is definitely more complicated than Blogger. However, it’s also much more advanced. With Blogger I was able to manipulate my layout and basically create my own blog design, but in WordPress I don’t have a chance. I also dislike how there’s not as much control to move around things in your layout. On Blogger it’s very easy to switch where the location of things are, like your “pages” section. In WordPress that takes a bit more work. It’s the same with adding widgets. I found it much easier to install widgets in Blogger than in WordPress, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it now. I’m still looking for some plugins that act as widgets, like a “featured posts” plugin – anyone have suggestions?

I’m going to leave it at that for now, because I don’t want this post to be overwhelming. I’m really happy with my switch to WordPress. It was just time for me to move to something bigger. (But note that I also have my own domain and hosting that I pay for, so I assume if you just get a standard WordPress blog, things will be a bit different). Have you made the switch from Blogger to WordPress? And if so, are you happy about it?

 

ARCs: What’s All the Fuss About?

Advanced Readers Copies, or ARCs as they are more commonly known, are a big deal in the book blogging world. What is an ARC? ARCs are bound uncorrected versions of books that are created before the book’s release date in the hopes of gaining publicity for the book.

Who gets to read ARCs? ARCs are shared with different people in the book world – and this does not mean just book bloggers. Librarians, professional reviewers (for newspapers, magazines, etc.), and many others are in need of ARCs, not just book bloggers. While book bloggers are a huge part of the book world, we are not the reason ARCs are created.

If you’re new to this whole blogging thing, you might be wondering how one can go about receiving ARCs. Well, there are a whole bundle of ways.

ARC Programs
There are a lot of really good programs out there that you can receive ARCs from. This is a really good idea, especially for new bloggers, because a lot of the time it also means you have to network a bit, and post more on your blog.
Here’s a short list of programs that get ARCs out to readers/bloggers:

  • Goodreads: First Reads – Giveaways are listed by publishers/authors, and members can enter to win. If you do win, it’s best to review the book in a timely manner on Goodreads (and make sure you fill out the form on the website saying you’ve read/reviewed it) so that you are more likely to receive ARCs in the future.
  • Library Thing: Early Reviewers
  • Shelf Awareness – Sign up to their daily newsletter, and look for ads in the newsletter about ARCs needing reviewers!
  • Netgalley – Netgalley is a widely loved tool in the book blogging world. Fill out a profile with all of your blogging info/stats/etc. and request different E-ARCs. The publishers will review your profile, and you will get an email saying if you have been accepted to review the book or not.
  • Early Birds ARC Review – This is a group in conjunction with Hachette Book Group that offers ARCs for review
  • Simon & Schuster Galley Grab
In addition to those, there are many other different places to win/receive ARCs. Presenting Lenore has compiled a thorough list if you want to check out some more.

From the Publisher
Maybe you see some bloggers receiving ARCs from the publisher or author. Maybe you wonder how they made those connections?
Well here’s the deal: Publishers can’t read your mind. They can’t magically know your address and ship off a bunch of ARCs to you. The best way to go about getting ARCs from publishers is to ask them in an email.
But, you have to remember a few things:

  • If you have only been blogging for a very short amount of time and have little to no stats, this is not the time to be emailing publishers and requesting ARCs. Yes, it can be exciting to be a part of this awesome book blogging community, and you’re probably really wishing for an ARC, but be patient. You don’t want to come off as if you only started blogging to get free books (which is something that is not appreciated in the blogosphere). Let your blog grow before you request anything. I personally started getting attention from publishers when I had about 700 GFC followers. I’ve been blogging consistently for a year and a half, and I spend A LOT of time on this blog. Do I consider myself to be well established? Not in the least. I am constantly finding ways to improve my blog, gain readership, and find a place for myself in the blogging community. I’m lucky if I get 1-2 ARCs a week, and it took me a long time and a lot of work to get to this point. My message: work hard, be patient and friendly, and it will pay off.
  • Publishers are busy. If a publisher doesn’t get back to you quickly, don’t panic. Also, don’t continue to email them and harass them about your request. If you don’t hear back and you don’t receive anything, chances are your request has been declined. Maybe this is because you do not have enough stats or because your email was unprofessional. Let some time pass. When your blog becomes more established and you think you are ready, try emailing them again.
  • Be professional! I cannot repeat this enough. Literary Exploration has a really great post on what to include in a request and how to be professional.  In your request, include your name, blog URL, various stats from your blog, links to your Goodreads/Shelfari/similar site profile if you have one, the book you want (author, title, ISBN), a quick note on why you are interested in reviewing that book, and your address.
  • Only request books you want to read and review! If a publisher accepts your request and sends a book your way, it is your responsibility to read and review it (most likely within a timeline). Think hard before you request any books, because you will be tied to them if you get accepted.
How can you contact a publisher about review copies? This is a list I have found immensely helpful. It has emails for the publicity department of different publishing houses. Please, never ask another blogger for their personal contacts at a publishing house. That’s confidential. Use the main link for the publisher and go from there.
ARC Tours
There are a lot of different ARC tour sites! Here are just a couple to get you started. Smitten With Books has a post with a longer list.
Around The World ARC Tours (United States only)
International Book Tours (International)
Other Important Things To Remember
  • ARCs are not free. In fact, they cost the publisher more to make because they are printing so few of them, and get no monetary compensation because no one buys them.
  • Don’t get mad at other people if they have more ARCs than you. Sure, I complain on Twitter sometimes about weeks when I don’t get anything in the mail, but I would never dream of telling a blogger they “hog ARCs” or some such ridiculous statement.
  • Make sure you have a detailed and informative review policy.
  • Keep track of your stats so you have accurate information to give publishers. I use Google Analytics because they are very precise and fairly easy to use.

So, what’s all the fuss about ARCs? I know I find myself getting jealous from time to time when I see another blogger with an ARC that I wish I had. But in the end, are ARCs really a measure of your status as a blogger? I have to say no. Personally, I value a friendly blogger with good content over a blogger that gets lots of ARCs.

Like I said, I don’t consider myself to be the know-all on ARCs. These are just a few tips I’ve learned while blogging. Tons of bloggers have excellent posts on this subject, so here’s a list of other posts you can check out and get advice from:
Presenting Lenore: New Book Blogger FAQ
The Story Siren: Advanced Readers Copies – What You Need To Know
Peachtree Publishers: Yes, We Do Read Your Review Policies
Alexandra Bracken: Dearest Book Blogger
Bookalicio.us: Why Aren’t Publishers Getting Back to Me?

If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment! Or you can email me (chloe.yabookloverblog(at)gmail(dot)com) or ask me a question on Formspring. I hope to post more informative posts for bloggers in the future, so if you have a suggestion or a topic you would like addressed, tell me!